Turning Waste into Wealth through Black Soldier Fly Farming

Okello Jesus Ojara

Figure 1: Figure 1. Richard Olanya (brown trouser), the Director Green Growth Plus Investment takes youth through production of Black Soldier Fly in Lamwo district, Photo by Okello Jesus

Northern Uganda- Mr Richard Olanya, 30, scoops up two handfuls of squirming Black Soldier Fly larvae. “Brown and shiny, live gold,” Mr Olanya says with a broad smile.

The Black Soldier flies he refers to as gold are alive only for a fleeting six weeks. But during that time, they reproduce generously, living 500-plus eggs in a single batch, and are fairly indestructible, having been known to survive up to two hours submerged in pure rubbing alcohol.

They eat in a writhing mound, thousands sharing a single serving of nearly any kind of organic waste.

The single most important fact about Black Soldier Flies (BSF) may be that in the larvae stage, they have the Superman-like ability to transform that waste into high-quality protein.

Furthermore, used as alternative protein additives in animal feed, this translate into an expensive, clean and sustainable food source-especially important as farmers, along with global economies, struggle to recover from the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including food shortages.

With the skills and knowledge acquired through digital trainings and research, Mr Olanya, a resident of Kanyagoga in Bardege-Layibi division in Gulu city, northern Uganda took it upon himself to manage organic waste and prevent environmental pollution in Gulu city by breeding Black Soldier Flies (BSF) larvae.

“Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) are converters of organic waste into edible biomass including protein, lipids, peptides, amino acids, chitin, vitamin and polypides,” Mr Olanya said.

Mr Olanya, who has a Diploma in Agricultural Mechanization told this publication that the idea to start production of Black Soldier Fly larvae as livestock feeds came after his poultry business failed in 2015 due to high cost of chicken feeds in the market.

According to Mr Olanya, he decided to establish a maggot production farm in the backyard of his half-acre piece of land in Gulu city after thorough learnings via YouTube and other online digital platforms.

“I decided to search on Google and YouTube to learn about the breeding of Black Soldier Fly larvae and the production of organic feeds for fish, poultry and pigs as well as fertilizers,” Mr Olanya told this publication.

According to Mr Olanya, 75 percent of the waste produce in Gulu city is organic while the rest is plastic waste and this leaves the city, with a stench, flooded drainages, and health hazards resulting from poor waste disposal.

Gulu City produces approximately 65 tons of organic waste monthly from the leftover food from hotels, restaurants, and homes as well as decaying unsold raw food from markets, trading centers and the remains of brewery waste commonly known as ‘ting’ from ‘lace and join.’

“I observed with keenness the stench within Gulu city especially whenever it would rain and the organic waste that flooded the area, which made life unconducive; this informed my decision to start and continue the production of the Black Soldier Fly to save the environment from pollution and provide locally made nutritious feeds for farmers at an affordable prices,” Mr Olanya said.

The breeding of Black Soldier Fly involves the attracting of the flies using organic food waste; once attracted, the flies lay eggs which take about two weeks to hatch, and after another week the larvae are ready and dried for feeding poultry.

Black Soldier Fly Larvae are considered highly nutritious feeds for poultry owing to the protein level it contains compared to soya beans and silverfish. In addition, they are also inexpensive with a kilogram sold between Shillings 700 (USD 0.8) to 800 (USD 0.21) only.

The Africa Compound Feed Market size is estimated at USD 21.95 billion in 2024, and is expected to reach USD 27.10 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 4.31 % during the forecast period (2024-2027).

Figure 2: Animal Feed Market by Type, Product, and Geography-Forecast and Analysis 2023-2027.link.htm

According to the market forecast, the market is witnessing a significant growth trend in aquaculture which is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, and algae and requires the use of high quality feed to ensure the optimal growth and health of these aquatic organisms.

The growth of aquaculture is driven by factors such as increasing demand for seafood awareness of the nutritional benefits of seafood, and the development of new and innovative aquaculture feed products.

BLACK SOLDIER FLY FARMING AS A SOLUTION

Insects are increasingly being recognized as an innovative and viable solution, with the global insect protein market estimated at USD343 million in 2021 and expected to grow by USD1.3 billion by 2027.

The use of Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens,BSF) larvae is an especially promising frontier, proven to produce high-quality proteins while using minimal arable land and having a negligible impact on the environment while upcycling food waste.

According to Mr Olanya, the nutritional content of Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae is excellent; a full grown larvae contain up to 45% protein, roughly 30% fat (bio-oil), around 7% chitin and around 4% calcium in the dry matter.

“BSF based feed also includes antibacterial agents; live larvae are completely organic food and an excellent source of protein for chickens, for example,” Mr Olanya said.

He further explained that the BSF larvae have the best feed conversion ratio among insects and the growth rate of the larvae is high. Adding that the BSF larvae eat carbohydrates and microbes and produce protein that was not originally in the feed.

However, according to the World Resource Institute, approximately, one third of food produced globally is lost or wasted resulting in economic losses estimated at US$1 trillion annually. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 37% of 120-170kg per capita per year of all food produced is lost or wasted at various points along the value chain. At the same time, there is a constant search for sustainable solutions to mitigate climate change, rejuvenate soils, bolster food production, and provide people with healthy, nutritious diets.

Furthermore, a study conducted in 2022 on Waste to Energy in Developing Countries- A rapid review on the opportunities, challenges and policies in selected countries of Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia towards sustainability revealed that rapid urbanization, industrialization, and population growth have led to an exponential increase in waste generation, including food waste and organic matter.

Figure 3: Nursery of neonatal larvae shortly after hatching rot

In 2016, Sub Saharan Africa generated an estimated 174 million tonnes of waste at a rate of 0.46 KGs per capita per day, and is projected to triple by the year 2050, making the continent the world’s fastest growing waste generating region by 2050.

According to studies, organic waste currently constitute up to 57% of total waste produced in Sub Saharan Africa, with agriculture being one of the main sectors generating the largest quantities and if left unmanaged, this waste strains already-limited resources and contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.

The opportunity for reusing, recycling and recovering waste for the African continent could inject – UNEP estimates-USD$8 billion annually into the economy. The diversion of waste is expected to improve the socio-economic status of the continent, i.e. by creating jobs in the waste to value sector. Moreover, the diversion would minimize the environmental and health impacts associated with the current poor solid waste management practices.

The need for sustainable solutions that address both bio-waste management and climate change has never been more urgent and as Africa grapples with the challenges of sustainable agriculture, food security, and climate resilience, the black soldier fly offers a compelling solution.

Ms Irene Anena, has worked at Green Growth Plus Investment for the past two years and she told this publication that Black Soldier Fly farming is a real answer to the needs of farmers and can greatly help in mitigating climate change.

“By diverting bio-waste from landfills, where it would decay and release- a greenhouse gas over 80 times more harmful than carbon dioxide   , we leverages the Black Soldier Fly larvae to combat climate change significantly. Furthermore, reducing the demand for traditional animal feed can alleviate on our fragile ecosystems and reduce the carbon footprint associated with livestock feed production,” Ms Anena said.

Ms Anena further noted that post-feeding, the frass left behind by the larvae acts as an organic fertilizer, which Green Growth Plus Investment sells to the local farmers at affordable prices and they are rich in nutrients while these nutrients –rich organic fertilizers provide a sustainable alternative to chemical fertilizers.

This publication has learnt that the organic waste collected is channeled into a black soldier fly larvae production unit, where the black soldier flies mate to produce the larvae which in turn feed on the waste.

Within weeks, these ravenous larvae reduce the waste by over 50 %, and in the process, they convert it to high protein biomass. Once fully developed, these nutrient packed larvae are also harvested themselves. The biomass and larvae become ingredients in livestock and fish feed, which later sold to local farmers in Gulu, Amuru and other parts of Northern Uganda.

“This reduces reliance on traditional, resource intensive proteins like soya, as a result, local farmers can access affordable and sustainable feed options, enhancing the productivity of their livestock and boosting rural economies,” Ms Anena said.

She further said that rearing of black soldier flies is an efficient way to dispose organic waste by converting it into livestock feed and other products; the freshly harvested larvae are processed into black soldier fly meal, which contains essential amino acids and fatty acids.

According to her, black soldier fly meal can potentially replace soya bean meal as a poultry feed and can provide better amino acids. (Poultry feed based on Soya bean meal currently represents 60 – 70 % of farmers’ production costs while the black soldier fly alternative is cheaper.

Furthermore, a scientific study revealed   that replacing soya bean meal with black fly meal did not affect poultry’s feed intake, daily body weight gain, feed conversion ratio or the aroma or taste of the cooked meat.

Ms Agnes Aromorach, another female worker at Green Growth Plus Investment told this publication that using black soldier flies presents an opportunity to empower women across the agricultural value chain, from waste management to larvae harvesting, processing and distribution.

“Working with Green Growth Plus Investment has enable me to train fellow women on how to sort and compost organic waste and use black soldier flies to generate organic products that can be used on farms and in animal feed,” Ms Aromorach said.

Through the trainings, Ms Aromorach said that it has empowered the local communities, supported women’s economic empowerment, fosters economic growth, and contributed to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 12- Sustainable Consumption and Production; SDG 8- Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 5 – Gender Equality; and SDG 13- Climate Action.

“As we stand at the crossroads of waste management, sustainable agriculture, and climate change, the black soldier fly is a beacon of hope; its ability to convert bio-waste into valuable agricultural inputs, creates immense potential to transform economies, improve food security, and combat climate change; it is thus critical to provide resources such as land, finance, training and awareness campaigns to ensure that women can capitalize on the opportunity to use black soldier flies in agriculture,” Ms Aromorach told this publication.

Dr Daniel Saul Dhumba, a climate change expert at Makerere University in an interview said that the black soldier fly farming is one example of how innovative methods that can help farmers become more sustainable.

“With the increasing demand for sustainable agriculture, there is a great opportunity for farmers to explore new methods that do not only reduce waste but also improve soil health and crop yields,” Mr Dhumba said.

According to him, it is a sustainable method of agriculture that can benefit both farmers and the environment and it play an essential role in the ecosystem and the future of sustainable farming.

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